Chronic pain is pain that lasts more than several months (variously defined as 3 to 6 months, but certainly longer than "normal healing"). It's a very common problem. Recent clinical studies suggest the following:
- About 25.3 million U.S. adults (11.2 percent) had pain every day for the previous 3 months.
- Nearly 40 million adults (17.6 percent) had severe pain.
- Individuals with severe pain had worse health, used more health care, and had more disability than those with less severe pain.
What Types of Conditions Sometimes Result in Chronic Pain?
People can suffer with chronic pain in a number of areas of the body. We commonly treat patients that have chronic pain in the follow areas:
- Headaches caused by postural syndromes and work-related activities
- Neck pain caused by car accidents, postural syndromes, work-related activity
- Lower back pain caused by car accidents, lifting injuries, slip-and-falls
- Hip pain as a result of osteoarthritis or injury
- Knee pain as a result of osteoarthritis and sports injuries
Problems Associated with Chronic Pain
Patients that are experiencing chronic pain often have some or all of the following:
- Fear of performing daily activities
- Tightness and stiffness
- Increased use of pain pills
- New or worsening conditions
- Circulation problems
How Physical Therapy Can Help
Physical therapist directed treatment can help chronic pain patients in the following areas:
- Patient education - physical therapists help chronic pain patients understand that chronic pain is complex involving more than damaged muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joint tissues. Emotions, depression, anxiety, nervous system hypersensitivity, tissue damage, and pain caused in the brain are all components of chronic pain that may be addressed by:
- Hands-on treatment - soft tissue and spinal manipulative techniques are often effective to help decrease pain and increase mobility.
- Graded exercise programs - improving your strength and endurance can make it easier to move around during the day. Consider daily activities like getting out of of a chair or a car, climbing stairs, or walking long distances. These are daily activities that graded exercise programs, provided by a physical therapist, can help with.
- Posture and body mechanics instructions - understanding how to properly lift, sit, bend, reach, and perform specific daily activities can help. Moreover, progressively recovering normal movements through stretching and strengthening can assist in the return to normal daily activities.